I celebrated my 49th birthday this week.

Notice I said "celebrated"- not "ignored" or "shrugged at."

Ok, originally, my thought was that 49 doesn't have quite the same ring to it that 29 had...or even 39 or 42! But then I remembered something I heard years ago as I approached 30: "If you don't like getting older, consider the alternative."

Every day, women younger than me are dying of some form of cancer. I know others whose lives have been cut short due to traffic accidents, heart attacks or some other unthinkable, or unexpected tragedy. So I am truly blessed to have another year of life. By complaining of my age, I'm complaining about a privilege ...being allowed to live another year and enjoy life. That kind of complaint doesn't make sense to me. And so, instead of complaining about the inevitable effects of aging (like more body aches and pains, diminishing eyesight, and the 1- to 2-pound weight gain that the average woman experiences yearly after age 35!), I thought I would focus on what I am thankful for as I grow older.

First Thessalonians 5:18 tells me that God's will for me is to "give thanks in all circumstances" and that includes the circumstance of aging. And Psalm 90:12 tells us to "number our days that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom." I believe that means we are not only to seize the day and make each one count, but we are to be thankful for the number that we do have...be it 49, 59 or even 99. (Funny how those who do reach 99 years of age are usually very grateful for their age, but those of us 50 years younger than them aren't!) As I started thinking about it, there is much to be thankful for when it comes to getting older.

Several years ago, when I wrote my book, When Women Long for Rest, it was my challenge to focus on the few things that matter in life, make each day count, and aim for a life that grows more beautiful, not more busy, through the years. Each time I celebrate another year of life, it's a good time to review that challenge and see how I'm doing.

So, as I focus today on the few things that matter in life, here are seven things I want to share with you that any of us can be thankful for as we age:

1. Credibility: When I was in my 20s and wanting to write books to strengthen the faith of women, I was told that age would greatly help my credibility. In other words, I was a little young to be speaking about life's experiences. With each year, we gain more life experiences and those make us wiser and more credible when it comes to offering advice, ministering to others, or just putting some weight behind our words.

2. Friendships: Another year of life not only means another year of opportunities to make friends, but another year of opportunity to deepen the friendships we do have. How precious it is when you can recall a friendship that is nearly as old as you are!

3. Experiences: Each year of life represents more time on this planet to enjoy the beauty of what God created. (Get outdoors on a nice day and relish in it and you'll know what I mean.) When I remember that we were created to love God and enjoy him forever, it reminds me that forever has already started and I don't want to miss any of it complaining about how old I am while here on earth.

4. Forgiveness. There is no sadder story than the one in which a person dies before he or she had a chance to make amends with someone. The longer we live the more opportunities we have to forgive others, just as God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Why live with the burden of bitterness? Live freely by freely forgiving and you'll feel a lot younger than you actually are!